When I was a kid, I often went with my parents to the wharf on Maine Avenue in DC. It was always a smelly, crowded place. We’d buy seafood directly from ruddy-faced fishermen selling the catch of the day from barges, that bobbed alongside the old wharf. If one of the fishmongers recognized you as a customer, he’d sometimes throw an extra fish in the wrapper.
I remember asking about the signs that read: “Oysters R in Season.” My mother explained that when the current month contained an “R” in the spelling, it was a safe time to eat oysters. It amazed me at the time, that fish had such an understanding of the English alphabet.
Of all the varieties, I most preferred Butter Fish. The small, oval-shaped fish found up and down the Atlantic seaboard, has few bones and a buttery, flaky flesh. I’ve not eaten any in years, but I still have fond memories of the little fish that fit so perfectly in a frying pay.
Then and Now
The old Maine Avenue market, that began in 1805, is the oldest continually operating, open-air fish market in the country. In recent years, that area of Southwest Washington has seen an upgrade of businesses and housing along the waterfront, that includes a docking point for the water taxis running to Alexandria.
Bob’s Seafood Brings the Ocean to the Midwest
Having lived most of my life far removed from the ocean, I’ve learned to love freshwater fish: trout, catfish, and bass. But because of places such as Bob’s, a variety of seafood is also available to Midwest restaurants and customers all year round.
Market-owner Bob Mepham started off more than 40 years ago with just a roadside stand selling crab and shrimp, that he brought up from the Gulf. In the 80s, he moved to an outside market in the Loop and later to an inside location on Delmar. Since 2005, Bob’s has been on Olive Boulevard at 170.
From their large network of suppliers, the store has a few thousand pounds of fish flown to St. Louis every day. Thousands of pounds more arrive each week by truck. If you’re eating a fish dish in one of the city’s fine restaurants or local country clubs, chances are it’s from Bob’s Seafood. On their website, is a list of 40-some fish available (in season) and some that can be special ordered. Other delicacies include: caviar, chorizo, frog legs, turtle and alligator, as well as spices, sauces and breading for your recipes.
The Salmon Are Running!
I stopped at Bob’s recently. Robin was getting some mussels and shrimp for a dinner party. I didn’t think I needed anything, that is, until I spotted the wild-caught, dark red, Sockeye Salmon. I bought a small piece. It was splendid!
Bob’s Seafood. 8660 Olive Blvd. (at Olive and Rt. 170). Open: Mon-Sat 8a-6p. Closed Sundays.